“If you spell Chuck Norris in Scrabble, you win. Forever,” is just one of many Chuck Norris puns that flooded the internet in the 21st century, when the legendary actor and martial artist reached cult popularity for seemingly no reason at all. Best known for his iconic face-off against Bruce Lee in 1972s Way of the Dragon, Norris became a cinematic action icon, being one of the very few individuals who dared to face up to the now-iconic martial arts master.
More than just a co-star of Bruce Lee, Norris was his sparring partner, often working together off-set to better each others’ abilities. It was their appearance in the 1972 film that would turn the most heads, however, with Lee directing and penning the script for the film that ended with an epic showdown between the two athletes in the Colosseum. Illegally filming on the sacred site, Lee and Norris improvised much of their fight scene, drawing from their time sparring together.
Though Norris’ appearance in the Bruce Lee film is undoubtedly his most iconic role, he appeared in a wide range of other projects, taking on lead and cameo parts throughout his career. Such projects include the TV series Walker, Texas Ranger that Norris starred in from 1993-2001, the bombastic action movie The Expendables 3 and even the 2004 comedy movie Dodgeball directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Appearing alongside an eclectic cast that included the likes of Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Vince Vaughn, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Lance Armstrong, William Shatner and Jason Bateman, Norris showed up at the end of the film in a peculiar, throwaway gag.
Brought in for what Norris thought would be a short, meaningless cameo, the scene itself ended up being one of the most defining moments of the popular 2004 comedy, with Norris mentioned many times throughout the climax of the film. It was a role Norris almost didn’t take at first too, explaining to Empire, “I said no at first because it was a three-hour drive down to Long Beach. Then Ben Stiller calls. He goes, ‘Chuck, please, you’ve got to do this for me!’”.
Sending a helicopter to go and fetch Norris and bring him to the set, the actor didn’t read the script before doing his part, he simply “did my bit where I stick my thumb up,” took his paycheck and went home.
Months later when the movie came out, Norris went to go and see the film, calling it “cute, a little risqué in some areas,” before the shock of his cameo in the final act. Recalling his experience, Norris exclaims, “But in the end, when Ben’s a big fatty and watching TV, the last line of the whole movie is, ‘Fuckin’ Chuck Norris!’ My mouth fell open to here… I said, ‘Holy mackerel!’ That was a shock, Ben didn’t tell me about that”.
Becoming an iconic moment in modern comedy, without the influence of Chuck Norris, the final moments of Dodgeball might not be as hilarious as they are.